The numbers that dot your Facebook page may be small, but boy are they powerful.
We feel supported when a lot of people like the picture of last night's dinner, or comment on how cute our children are. And when an update gets no comments we feel desolate, unloved, boring.
But what if you could take the numbers off of Facebook? What if, for example, you could see that you have friends, but not how many friends, or that you have messages, but not how many messages, or that people liked your photo, but not how many people?
Would that change what you look at, what you post, and how you feel when you interact with the social network?
That's the question at the heart of Facebook Demetricator, a downloadable browser plug-in created by new media artist Benjamin Grosser that removes all the numbers from your Facebook page.
"By removing these numbers, I am trying to draw people's attention to their existence in the first place and how much we rely on them," said Grosser. "The way Facebook is designed, it's easy to forget they are there."
Grosser said about 6,500 people are using Facebook Demetricator, and that the response has been almost entirely positive.
"Some people said they realize that the numbers are like a drug for them -- like heroin -- that create an addictive response," he said. "Others talk about how the lack of numbers produce a calm, an ease; gives them a sense of relief, and makes Facebook seem less competitive."
Still, others have commented that removing numbers from Facebook takes the fun out of the social network. Some wonder how they can tell if their posts and photos are successful if they don't have numbers to quantify that success.
It took Grosser four months to build Facebook Demetricator, which he made available via a free download a few weeks ago. He said the initial strategy to figure out how to make it work wasn't difficult, but he hadn't realized how deep Facebook goes -- how many numbers we see. His goal was truly to eradicate all the quantifying numbers on the site, and that took time.
Grosser said he thinks it's possible that without numbers on their Facebook page, some people will be able to focus more on content they put up, rather than how many "likes" it gets.